Yet Again: The Numbers Show Excess Deaths
Not the flu.
Because the Trump administration and its supports want to downplay the effects of the virus on the broad population, we return yet again to the subject of excess deaths relative to normal. Via Scientific American: Debunking the False Claim That COVID Death Counts Are Inflated.
A persistent falsehood has been circulating on social media: the number of COVID deaths is much lower than the official statistic of more than 218,000, and therefore the danger of the disease has been overblown. In August President Trump retweeted a post claiming that only 6 percent of these reported deaths were actually from COVID-19. (The tweet originated from a follower of the debunked conspiracy fantasy QAnon.) Twitter removed the post for containing false information, but fabrications such as these continue to spread.
The piece continues:
Now some facts: Researchers know beyond a doubt that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have surpassed 200,000. These numbers are supported by three lines of evidence, including death certificates. The inaccurate idea that only 6 percent of the deaths were really caused by the coronavirus is “a gross misinterpretation” of how death certificates work, says Robert Anderson, lead mortality statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The overall approach looks at three pieces of evidence: case surveillance, and death certificates, but also to excess deaths specifically:
They are the number of deaths that occur above and beyond the historical pattern for that time period, says Steven Woolf, a physician and population health researcher at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. In a paper published in JAMA this month, Woolf and his colleagues examined death records in the U.S. from March 1 through August 1 and compared them with the expected mortality numbers. They found that there was a 20 percent increase in deaths during this time period—for a total of 225,530 excess deaths—compared with previous years.
Two thirds of these cases were attributed to COVID-19 on the death certificates, and Woolf says there are two types of explanations for the rest: Some of them were COVID-19 deaths that simply were not documented as such, perhaps because the person died at home and was never tested or because the certificate was miscoded. And some of the extra deaths were probably a consequence of the pandemic yet not necessarily the virus itself. For instance, he says, imagine a patient with chest pain who is scared to go to the hospital because they do not want to get the virus and then dies of a heart attack. Woolf calls this “indirect mortality.” “The deaths aren’t literally caused by the virus itself but the pandemic is claiming lives,” he says.
If anything, note the following:
COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Whether the number of lives cut short add up to 218,511, 219,681 or 219,541—as reported by the CDC, Johns Hopkins University and the New York Times, respectively, on October 19—it’s a staggering number of lives cut short.
You know: just like the flu!